Proposed Changes in Rape Laws- Welcomed

The law of rape is not just a few sentences. It is a whole book, which has clearly demarcated chapters and cannot be selectively. We cannot read the preamble and suddenly reach last chapter and claim to have understood and applied it. ‘

Kiran Bedi

Rape (from Latin rapio, to carry off, to overcome) means an unlawful intercourse done by a man with a woman without her valid consent. Offence of rape may be considered the act of psychopaths who are starved hungry brutes. It is used as a means of targeting women whom the security forces accuse of being militant sympathizers. Often gender violence remains hidden behind the veil, and the family of the victim never makes a complaint.

As per National Resource Centre for Women, there were 16,373 rape cases in India in 2002. Incidence of rape cases reported an increase of 1.8 percent in 2002 over the previous year. At the national level, there were 16,378 rape victims, and the number of cases was 16,373. Of these, 10,730 were in the age group of 18-30 years, followed by 2,992 in the age-group 30-50 years, and 1,325 in the age-group 14-18 years. Offenders were known to the victims in a majority of the cases.

The continuance of sexual offences against women may be because few of them do not even get reported. Since in courts, sexual penetration has to be proved; which can be damaging, especially when defense counsel throws harsh and callous rhetoric to further victimize the survivor. After few lenient views, the Supreme Court now remains struck to the point that no leniency can be adopted in sexual assault cases. To enlarge the scope of offence, actual sexual intercourse is not considered necessary to constitute the offence of rape. It has observed that rape is a crime against basic human rights and violative of Right to Life as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Even the requirement of corroboration of evidence is relaxed and mostly sensitized look is given to testimony of prosecutrix. Such an approach was required since long, as our society still places women at a disadvantaged position. The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported that recently the Supreme Court has asked that all courts show more responsibility and sensitivity while dealing with sexual assault cases. The female judges will also deal with cases of sexual harassment and dowry-related offenses in India. A Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices C K Thakker and Altamas Kabir stressed on need of ‘socially-sensitized judges’ in society to deal ‘sternly and severely’ with rapists to be faced with stringent penal laws.

When the Apex Court has made every attempt to punish rapists, at the same time legislature has also come forward to bring change in rape legislations. National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked for fast-track courts to handle rape cases and for enhanced punishment for rape and other forms of sexual assault. The proposed changes are aimed at making it easier for women to report cases of rape and to improve conviction rates. The changes suggested in The Cr PC (Amendment) Bill 2006 are that a woman judge to hear rape cases, as far as is practicable, trial to end within three months, investigation of case preferably at the victim’s residence, investigation preferably by a woman police officer, questioning of victim in the presence of her parents or a social worker, recording the victim’s statement at a place of her choice, ban on publication of trial proceedings in rape cases and compensation to victims or dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime.

Kiran Bedi has suggested that “Rapes are symptoms of our overall decadence. If we want to reverse the situation we shall have to readdress ourselves whoever we are and wherever we may be”. Psychiatrist Samir Parikh has made a suggestion to provide easier access for rape victims to approach law enforcing agencies. The passing of proposed amendment would mark a change in perception of society and would lead to positive conviction rate with fewer injuries to the dignity of prosecutrix. It ensures that no rape case remains unreported only for the reason to avoid harassment by counsel in the open court as well as the society. All the changes , whether by courts or by the legislatures to strictly implement rape laws must be welcomed to provide equal rights to victims of such an offence which not only injures the body but the soul as well.

Bhumika Sharma